Powers of the Universe: Part Ten
All the powers of the universe are one, seamlessly involved with one another,
present everywhere in the universe, coursing through us, trying to bring forth Radiance.
In his concluding talk in the DVD series, “The Powers of the Universe” Brian Swimme speaks about Radiance.
The most powerful presence of Radiance is the sun. In its core, the sun creates helium out of compressed hydrogen, releasing light. The process of fusion generates photons. Light emanates in waves which collapse into photon particles, creating light. The sun is also giving off messenger particles called gravitons that mediate the gravitational interaction by penetrating the earth, pulling the earth to the sun.
We see the light, and feel the gravitational pull.
The moon also has Radiance, but not from creating light through fusion as the sun does. The photons that come from the moon are created by the sun’s activity on the moon. The moon releases the light thus created, also bathing us with gravitons, to which the earth responds, as in the tides of the seas.
It is an ongoing activity of the universe to radiate. Even in the depths of the earth, everything radiates LIGHT.
Radiance is the primary language of the universe.
We are frozen light… Brian Swimme says that every being we meet holds fourteen billion years of radiance.
The twentieth century mystic Thomas Merton saw with clarity the gap between this stunning reality and our capacity to see it,
and wondered how we might tell people that they are walking around shining like the sun!
Yet, by a willingness to see deeply, we can develop a subtle spirit that responds to the depths of spirit in another,
a container that responds to the beauty of the other. The archetypal example of this kind of depth perception, Swimme says,
is a mother beholding her child. What is a mother seeing in the eyes of her child? This is the depth perception of beauty.
When we look into the eyes of another do we see colour and shape only as in a surface, machine-like mentality
or do we see flowing, radiating out of the eyes, the essence, the fullness of the person, his or her depth?
Light is a flow of emotions: light as joy, sadness, pouring out from another. Think what can happen with one glance
where we fall in love so deeply that the rest of our life is changed: we contain the Radiance that is streaming out of another.
When, on a sleepless night, Swimme suggests, we go outdoors and see the stars, difficulties melt away
and we are smothered with deep peace. Something glorious is streaming into us, something so deeply felt
that we find peace in our at-homeness in the universe. When we look down and see fireflies (flashing to interest their mates)
we realize we are participating in an amazingly sacred event.
We are drawn into the depth of things and when we go there we find the future direction of the universe.
The earth makes rubies and sapphires out of elements that come together, that explode and sparkle with Radiance,
as though the universe is trying to tell us something about our aliveness in the realm of possibility!
We sit by the ocean, drawn into what is really real, something that is attempting to establish a deep bond with us.
The magnificence of ocean/sand/sky wants to sparkle forth like a sapphire.
We feel what reverberates out, Swimme says, as if completing the beauty that’s there.
We enter into relationship with the Radiance of the universe through resonance and that is the primary form of prayer.
Reverberation is the primary sacrament. We become the radiance that is flooding the world. If the resonance is deep enough,
it fills our being so that we reverberate with the being of the other. The Radiance becomes the being. We are resonant with another
when we begin to reverberate with the one we see. We are then in a non-dual relationship with another.
There is great joy in developing this level of interaction with life.
The mystics intuited radiance long before the physicists described it. Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit priest-paleontologist
who died in 1955, wrote: “Throughout my whole life during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually
been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within...
The purple flash of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal universe...
This is what I have learnt from my contact with the earth - the diaphany of the divine at the heart of a glowing universe,
the divine radiating from the depth of matter a-flame”. (The Divine Milieu)
"the Divine radiating from the depth of matter aflame"
Hildegard of Bingen, the astonishing 12th c. abbess and genius, wrote: “From my infancy until now, in the 70th year of my age,
my soul has always beheld this Light, and in it my soul soars to the summit of the firmament and into a different air....
The brightness which I see is not limited by space and is more brilliant than the radiance around the sun ....
I cannot measure its height, length, breadth. Its name, which has been given me, is “Shade of the Living Light”....
Within that brightness I sometimes see another light, for which the name “Lux Vivens” (Living Light) has been given me.
When and how I see this, I cannot tell; but sometimes when I see it, all sadness and pain is lifted from me,
and I seem a simple girl again, and an old woman no more!”
The Powers of the Universe: Part Nine Inter-Relatedness
One summer morning while I was living in my hermitage in the woods beside the Bonnechere River, I sat outdoors, holding a mug of coffee, enjoying a warm breeze. It must have been a Tuesday because I was preparing to write on Inter-relatedness for our Communion of Creative Fire.
At once, a dozen other tasks presented themselves, each one more appealing than writing. I washed a woven place-mat, hung it outdoors to dry, answered emails, read an old poetry journal, and finally settled on something truly urgent: picking crab–apples from a tree at the top of my lane.
I had noticed the tree the day before, its two large branches split near the trunk, their massive burden of crab-apples hovering just above the ground. I thought the tree might have been struck by lightning or pummelled by winds in a recent storm.
I began to fill a large bin with crab-apples, so eager to be picked that they nearly leapt from their branches. I worked quickly, mindlessly, concerned only that these small apples should be “used” before they fell to the earth to rot.
After nearly an hour of moving heavy branches that hung all askew, picking as many apples as I could reach, I decided I could do no more. I was hot, sticky, and being slowly devoured by a local chapter of mosquitoes who had found me out. Then, I happened to look up at the tree.
Something shifted in me. I was aware of a presence, a dim dark knowing, that moved my heart. Above me, the two split branches hung like almost-severed arms, and above them there was no great trunk. This was it. The tree was hopelessly broken, and would not bear again. Somehow I knew that it hadn’t been lightning or fierce winds but the sheer weight of this huge crop of apples that had broken her branches. This feast of fruit she offered as her dying gift.
Did I acknowledge that? Offer my thanks? I hope so, but it was a brief act. I was eager to get out of the sun, away from the mosquitoes, into my swimsuit.
Minutes later, I was walking through the woods to where a stairway of carefully-placed flat rocks led down into the river. Embraced by the slowly moving water, my companion of seven years, I felt at first only the bliss of coolness, buoyancy.
The Bonnechere River
But gradually there came again the dim knowing that I had experienced beside the tree. Again I sensed a presence, a something, a someone, cooling me, embracing me, welcoming me into its life…
It was late afternoon when I at last opened my notes on the Powers of the Universe, garnered from Brian Swimme’s DVD series and Jean Houston’s teachings on the way these powers impact our lives.
Jean had spoken of White Buffalo Calf Woman who taught her people that all things are inter-related, so they must reverence all of life. This, Jean said, is what the power of Inter-relatedness is about: a vision of caring with a sense of the whole; we need an overarching vision that is so simple and alluring that we can see what can be, not from many different perspectives (science, art, religion, etc.) but from an all-inclusive vision. Jean sees the Power of Inter-Relatedness as an incredible invitation from the cosmos to create deep caring.
Inter-relatedness or Care has been at work in the Universe for 13.8 billion years, says Brian Swimme. Without it, the Universe would fall apart.
Parental care emerged as a value in the Universe because it made survival more possible with the mother and father fish caring for their young. As reptiles evolved, Swimme speculates that either they discovered caring, or perhaps it evolved along with them. Reptiles watch over their young and do not eat them (as do some fish). The amazing power of care deepens with the arrival of mammals, whose care continues sometimes for a lifetime. This, says Swimme, is the Universe showing what it values, enabling mammals to spread out.
In some species of mammals, the female selects among her suitors the male who offers the best chance of having her offspring survive. The female is behaving in a way that will affect the next generation. Through her, the Universe is working to extend care. An intensive study of baboons led researchers to find that when a female chooses a sexual partner one of the qualities she seeks is tenderness. Thus life seeks to deepen and extend care.
Mother Loon nestles babies on her back
Care has to be evoked. A mother sea-lion establishes relationship with her pup by licking, nuzzling, thus evoking her own motherhood. It is the same for us humans, says Swimme. We need to find ways to activate these deep cosmological powers so that we can interact with the universe. This requires imagination. The power of care is evoked out of the plasma of the early universe. How do we enter into that process of evoking care? Just becoming aware is to participate.
How we position ourselves within our relationships with all of life is crucial, and is an act of imagination. To position ourselves in order to USE life leads to the extinction of countless species. Even 100 million years of parental care was not enough to save many species of fish from extinction. The shaping of our imagination by economic, educational and manufacturing systems that see use as the primary mode or orientation towards life on the planet, also views children in schools as “products” to be shaped, (and a tree’s bounty of crab-apples as something to be “used”.) What would be another way?
Swimme notes the amazing capacity of humans to care, a power that is coded in our DNA, where life has extended its care through us. But we also have through the power of language and symbol, through our conscious self-awareness, the capacity for empathy. We can learn to experience care for another species, even as we can imaginatively occupy another place, and extend our care to other cultures. With deepening compassion we move outside of our own boxed–in perspective.
Seeing that cosmological care is built in from the very beginning of the universe, some people today speak of the Great Mother or Mother Earth. This, says Swimme, is the cosmological power of care employing a powerful image or symbol to reflect upon itself through the human.
On a day when I tried to avoid writing of Inter-Relatedness, I was given the gift of experiencing this power directly in the self-giving bounty of a crab-apple tree, in the welcoming, cooling embrace of a gently-flowing river. Great Mother felt very close, inviting me, in Jean Houston’s words, into “a vision of caring with a sense of the whole”.